March 4, 2011

Pre-School

PK is officially registered for pre-school in September! I'm really excited and nervous at the same time. The pre-school thing was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision. The thing is, her daycare has a Montessori-style (i.e. not fully Montessori) pre-school, and the kiddies usually start at the pre-school at around 2.5 years. Unfortunately, as was the case last year with PK's transition to the toddler room, there is a backlog, and it looks like there won't be anything until the spring. My guess is that we're looking at May.

For some reason, this got me riled up. I guess it was a déjà vu of last year, and it really annoyed the hell out of me. So I started looking at other options for pre-school, close to our place. There's a Montessori school close to our place that we often pass by, so I decided to check out their Web site (which must run on the world's oldest server, because it is slow), and liked what I saw. So I called them up to ask for some info.

It turns out that you can book a day to visit the school and observe a classroom in action (sans kiddie), so I went ahead and made a booking, after figuring out schedules with the hubby. Both of us went into this with knots in our stomachs. After all, PK loves her daycare, and it would kind of suck to pull her out of a place that she loves, if we can prolong her stay just a bit longer. Expectations were on the low end, at least for me. Funny, since this was my idea.

The classroom observation was interesting. We literally sat on chairs in the middle of the classroom, holding a guide which told us what to look for during a classroom observation. We were to sit there quietly, and were not allowed to interact with the kids. I kind of felt like a research scientist looking down at a rat maze. And I have to admit that it was very new-age-y and made me think of hippies moms and kids wearing organic cotton and eating organic food. (Yup, you got me: big-ass stereotype.) That aside, it was a cool experience. It was awesome to see how the kids picked activities that they liked, and how the teacher encouraged them and gave them guidance. I especially liked how the kiddies learned how to write in cursive at such a young age. I'm a bit biased on the cursive writing thing. I hate printing. I write in cursive all the time (when I do handwrite, that is), and I think it sucks that kids learn to write in cursive at such a late age, thereby preferring to print instead. Call me old-fashioned.

So the observation went pretty well. At one point, we saw these two girls sitting at a table, having a snack, talking about their respective iPads (holy crap...this young???), and talking about how they're going to tell their parents to arrange a playdate for them. Too funny.

The highlight of the observation, however, was when this one kid took interest in the hubby and started to stare him down. And then proceeded to talk to the hubby. We were instructed not to talk to the kids, so the hubby was trying to ignore this kid, who obviously wouldn't go away. So finally he gently asked the little boy if he didn't want to go play with his friends. I, on the other hand, was trying hard not to make eye contact and to keep myself from laughing.

Our classroom observation lasted about 30 minutes. Good thing, because there's only so much you can see before it starts to look boring. Plus I'm fidgety and can't sit comfortably for that long anyway. After the classroom observation, we got a tour of the school from the principal, who explained more about the Montessori methodology. Kids are encouraged to work on activities that they like. They still work on the stuff that they don't like, but to me it seems as if they don't make a big deal if you suck at something. Unlike at conventional schools. Kiddies are grouped together with 3 age groups (so 3, 4, and 5 at the "pre-school" level). That way they get to enjoy the role of looking up to older kids, and later, to become mentors themselves. Very cool. I got really excited, and thought that this would be a really nurturing environment for PK. I was also excited that they had a French program and a music program as part of their curriculum. I very much want PK to learn French - that way I have someone with whom I can practice my French. I'm very rusty now from not using it since high school. Besides, PK is at the best age for picking up languages.

By the time our tour was done, both the hubby and I were sold on the idea of a Montessori education for PK. The next step of the enrollment process was to bring PK into the school for a meet-and-greet with the principal. The meet-and-greet didn't quite go as planned, but I think it was pretty successful. She wandered into one of the rooms and made herself right at home, while I chatted with the principal and finalized the paperwork for PK's enrollment. Ever since her visit to the Montessori school, PK has been asking me when she'll be going to pre-school. She knows that she's going in September, but of course she has no sense of how far away that actually is.

Montessori isn't cheap, but it's not that crazy expensive, especially when you factor in what we pay for daycare right now anyway. It'll definitely be more expensive than daycare, since tuition is for the 10-month school year. There is a summer camp to cover the 2 summer months when the kids are off from school, but that's extra. Ditto for March break, which is two weeks. Definitely pricey, but hey, we have the one kid. It's manageable.

I'm excited about September, yet mortified. Big changes are coming for all 3 of us. There will be a lot of adjustment. We don't know if the Montessori school will be a perfect fit for PK, but I sure as hell hope that it is. I really want her to love learning, and if that's what she gets out of Montessori, then it's money well spent.

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